a room with a television and a table

Review: Amahara – Wa-Yo Room (Awaji Island, Japan)

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While I’m starting to get the hang of travel between cities under good value, when it comes to more rural destinations, I’m clueless. I prefer being around the city, staying in awesome chain hotels and experiencing street food off local markets, so finding a ryokan outside of Osaka was something that was completely out of my element. Fortunately my dad offered to help, and he’s done a couple of “tatami runs” before.

The Yumesenkei Amahara hotel is located in Sumoto, a stunning town on Awaji Island. It’s quite lively, though the hotel is quite aways from any nearby attractions, so we drove to get around the area. Yumesenkei seems to be a bigger complex that encapsulates a few hotels, with Amahara being the more premium-seeming of the options.

The exterior of the hotel is rather understated, and blends in with the local buildings.

a building with many windows
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Exterior

A few sakura trees loomed around outside the hotel building. Sakura was in full bloom during our visit, so that made for some very nice views whenever we stepped outside the hotel.

a road with trees and bushes
Yumesenkei Complex Sumoto Sakura

While the entire Yumesenkei complex shares an outdoor parking lot, there’s a little side entrance to Amahara, with a rather understated entrance.

a sign next to a fence
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Entrance

At this point an associate on the parking lot had escorted our car to a parking space near the hotel building, and was helping us unload our luggage.

a front door of a building
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Entrance

The hotel’s lobby featured dark, muted tones, as well as some comfortable seating. It was a cosy place to spend some time.

a room with leather couches and a table
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Lobby

To the side of the lobby was a small working area, with communal seating, some reading material, as well as a PC.

a room with a desk and chairs
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Lobby

We were escorted by a Chinese associate to our room for in-room check-in, whereas a few other associates took care of our luggage. We were assigned room 2003, a Wa-Yo (Japanese-European) room on the second floor of the hotel. The hotel features five floors, though in my understanding the rooms on the bottom floors feature private onsens, as our room did.

As you can see from the floorplan below, the hotel has a rather small footprint, with only four rooms on each floor.

a sign on a wood surface
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Floorplan

The hotel featured a single lift that operated across its five floors. However, since the lobby was on the first floor, I never bothered actually using the lift.

The hallways featured similar dark, muted tones to the lobby. If this was at a city hotel I’d say the hallways were slightly outdated, but I thought they were perfect for this hotel.

a long hallway with lights on
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Hallways

a door with a number on it
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Entrance

Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto
Check-in: Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Room Type: Wa-Yo Room
Room Number: 2003
Stay duration: 2 nights
Check-out: Thursday, April 5, 2018

Our room featured an entryway that forked left into the bedroom area, straight into the living room, and right into the bathroom.

a door in a room
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Entryway

The living area was stunning, and featured a Japanese tatami mat floor, a couple of beanbags, a flatscreen TV, and some comfortable seating, including a loveseat and an armchair.

a room with a television and a couch
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Living Area

a tv on a cabinet in a room
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Living Area

Since there wasn’t a “real” table in this room, the low table between the loveseat and armchair served as the best place to work in the living area.

a living room with a coffee table and chairs
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Living Area Seating

The beanbags themselves were comfortable, though on the small side. They looked really cute, though, and I loved the checkered pattern. They were more of beanbags you could rest your head on, rather than those that you could sink your entire body into. Regardless, they were a thoughtful touch, and brightened up the otherwise bare floor.

a purple and white checkered pillow on a white mat
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Living Area Beanbags

The floor also served as where the tatami mattresses were laid out at night, where an associate would come in to set our beds. The tatami beds consisted of a very nice duvet, and a significantly less comfortable pillow – they were small, flat, and I used my backpack as a pillow instead.

a bed with white sheets
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Living Area Tatami

The bedroom area was partitioned off, though only by a wall that was waist height. This was perfect for us, since it allowed the natural light to permeate through the entire room, while also preventing it from feeling too sparse or cavernous. Other families that enjoy their individual privacy may not enjoy this as much, though.

a bed in a room
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bedroom

The bedroom featured two comfortable beds (the mattresses were slightly thicker than the tatami mattresses), and much better pillows, which were appreciated.

two beds with white sheets on each side
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bedroom

The bedroom featured a separate flatscreen TV – I found it quite interesting that they couldn’t find a way to make a single TV viewable from both sides, given this was essentially one large room.

a tv on a shelf
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bedroom TV

The bathroom spanned the length of the room, and featured a sink with a chair, as well as a separate shower.

a bathroom with a shower and sink
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom

a sink with soap and bottles on a shelf
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom Sink

The shower itself had amazing water pressure, as is the case with rural hotels in Japan. Also, unlike my past experiences at “fusion” ryokans, the shower was comfortable, and didn’t feel like needles of water were piercing into my back.

a shower with a shower head and a shower head
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom Shower

The bathroom also featured quirky mix-n-match toiletries, with Awaji Incense toiletries in the shower.

a group of bottles on a counter
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom Toiletries

a group of bottles of shampoo and body soap
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom Toiletries

Near the door was a separately enclosed toilet, though there was no sink, so you had to walk to the bathroom to wash your hands.

a toilet in a bathroom
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Bathroom Enclosed Toilet

While I thought the room was quite nice, the balcony was probably the highlight of the room. First there were a couple of chairs.

a chair and table on a deck
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Balcony Seating

Then there was the private onsen. Unfortunately we never ended up using this onsen, as the bulk of our leisure time in the room was spent in one of the hotel’s big communal onsens.

a wooden tub with a wooden railing
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Balcony Private Onsen

The balcony faced east, and overlooked Osaka Bay. Unfortunately it was overcast during both of our mornings at the hotel, so the sunrises weren’t impressive (though still very nice).

a view of a house from a balcony
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Balcony View

a body of water with a pier in the distance
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Balcony View

The room was on the second floor, and below us was a roof that housed the walkway to the communal onsens. Unfortunately this meant that the roof was hard to clean, meaning that we had a direct

a roof with a puddle of water
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Balcony…View

Overall, I thought the room was perfect. It wasn’t the most private, and there weren’t any universal power ports, though the room was much more modern than I was expecting.

By the balcony was free water, as well as a Nespresso machine with capsules (which I wouldn’t have expected at a non-chain ryokan hotel, but I’m certainly not complaining!).

a table with a coffee machine and a wallet and a bottle of water
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Amenities

Under that platform was the minibar. While all the soft drinks were paid, there was a bowl of complimentary strawberries provided, which I loved.

a refrigerator with drinks and beverages
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Minibar

The room was also stocked with yukatas and different Japanese robes. In theory you’re supposed to wear them to dinner, which we did on the first night. However, everyone else was in casual clothes, and it was too easy to reveal the unrevealable in these yukatas, so I didn’t end up wearing the yukatas much, apart from when I was heading to the onsen.

a stack of white clothes on a table
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Amenities

On the plus side, they were pretty stylish…I think. 😉

a person taking a selfie in a bathroom mirror
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Yukata

The room also had an abundance of slippers – one for each of us upon entering the room, and separate, more supportive wooden slippers to wear on the balcony.

a group of shoes on the floor
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Slippers

a pair of wooden sandals on a deck
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Slippers

In-room check-in was done at our room upon our arrival, and we were given a comprehensive introduction to the entirety of the hotel grounds. The associate mentioned that there would be free coffee and tea in the lobby, as well as wine and whiskey after 8 PM. She also detailed where the communal hot springs were, and recommended us to watch the sunrise (I never watched the sunrise from the hot springs, though as you can see above, our room also faced east, so we could see the sunrise from there).

She also brought a welcome drink and snack – mochi with cherry blossom sauce. Cherry blossom sauce isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though the mochi was delicious. She also mentioned that check-out was at 11 AM.

a tray with utensils and cups on it
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Wa-Yo Room Welcome Drink and Dessert

After that she gave us a tour of the room, which entailed checking out the view, telling us which yukatas belonged to which gender, and filling up the onsen, despite the fact that we never used it. While some of the explanations were quite long-winded, I appreciated the room tour, as this isn’t your average, intuitive hotel room.

She also gave us WiFi codes. The WiFi ranged from slow to dysfunctional, so this isn’t a place where you’ll want to work online and make video calls. However, having expected that coming in, I pre-loaded some work offline, and at points in the middle of the night the WiFi was even fast enough to load short YouTube videos.

The coffee in the lobby was served through a coffee machine, though I loved the addition of juice and San Pellegrino sparkling water, served in an ice bucket.

a coffee machine on a counter
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Lobby Coffee

a bucket of ice and bottles of soda
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Lobby Free Beverages

I’ll share my pictures of the food at the hotel in a separate post, though it was served at the hotel’s restaurant, connected directly to the lobby. I loved the wooden tones of the restaurant, and the food was great as well.

a room with a long table and chairs
Yumesenkei Amahara Sumoto Restaurant

The hotel also features great public grounds. Most remarkable are their onsens – there are several to choose from, as we had access to any of the onsens across the entire Yumesenkei complex. It’s worth noting that the onsen venues “switch” genders every day, so a male onsen one day may serve as a female onsen the next, just so everyone gets the complete mix of onsen venue options to choose from.

Walking around an entire complex with body parts flailing around isn’t something that I’d repeat again, though I enjoyed the views. The first night we went to one of the venues closer to our building, which was more crowded (and also only partially exposed), and the second night we went to an awesome venue by the main Yumesenkei building, where we got an exclusive outdoor portion to ourselves (entailing a cold walk down a couple of stone staircases in the nude) with great views over Osaka Bay.

a building with cars parked in front of it
Awaji Yumesenkei Hotel

It’s also worth noting that Sumoto is a stunning little town. It features a couple of big malls, it’s biker friendly, and the views, especially on a clear day, are amazing. It’s a good base to explore Awaji Island, since it’s pretty much smack in the middle.

a bridge over a river
Sumoto Area During Sunset

Check-out at the hotel was also smooth and done in the lobby, where all our costs were wrapped up through credit card. When we drove away, the staff waved at us until our car disappeared around the corner.

Bottom Line: Yumesenkei Amahara

On the surface it seems like I was very impressed with the hotel. And I was. I loved the design of the room – it incorporated Western modernism with Japanese flair – and the food was very good as well. On top of that, the onsen experience was great, even if I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to bathe in an onsen by choice. I also loved the city it was located in, which was quaint, not too touristy, and beautiful.

However, the experience just didn’t “wow” me like some others did. During my ryokan run in 2014, I stayed at the Hoteiya Yufuin, where I was treated like a guest in someone else’s home. They had so much pride in their activities, including their popcorn roasting, their food, their rooms and their services. They gave us full information about the city we were in, and proactively gave us recommendations of what to do.

Since this hotel came at a similar price point, I probably raised my expectations too high – everyone was friendly, as is almost tacitly the case in Japan, and the room was really pleasant, though the property itself felt relatively soulless. It felt like a very luxurious business hotel, where we were offered a beautifully designed place to sleep, and were to go on with our lives throughout the day. I feel like it’s such a lost opportunity – the hotel grounds were beautiful and activities were abundant, but the associates just felt so detached from the hotel guests. I guess that’s partially to do with the average guest demographic at this hotel, since we saw a lot of Chinese families coming for a short vacation, so associates have to deal with a language barrier 24/7.

In other words, my 2014 ryokan run felt like a culturally immersive experience in itself, while this felt more like somewhat of a reminiscence of that trip, instead of a memory to be made in itself.

Personally I preferred staying at the Hilton Osaka, since it was similarly decorated with a lot of Japanese flair, but also contained most of the elements you’d expect at an actual business hotel, such as fast WiFi. However, I realise that isn’t exactly a fair comparison to make.

Read more from this trip:

Have you stayed at one of these “fusion” ryokans before? How was your experience?

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